In the show “The Good Doctor” they do accurately portray autism. There is no solid line when it comes to autism and whether or not someone qualifies as Autistic. Most all cases are different and in Shaun Murphy’s case he is on the lower end of the spectrum.
Why I chose to look into this is because when the show first aired there was a lot of controversies surrounding it. The main reason being that they had an actor playing an autistic character. Many people thought that there was no way that someone could accurately play that role, and if they did that it would be offensive to the Autism community. At first, I did not know what to think or who to agree with, but after watching just the first episode, I knew that they had the right intentions.
With the fact that this was so controversial many people have been reviewing this show. Therefore there is a lot of content out there on this topic, and several other analyses have been done that concur with me on this point. For example, the site “Autism Speaks” wrote a review on this very same point “Freddie (Shaun) does well in his debut, showing several characteristics that can accompany an autism diagnosis. These characteristics include things such as social awkwardness, lack of eye contact, playing with his hands during stressful situations, etc. That last one is still something I do to this day as an adult who is on the autism spectrum. Freddie’s take will resonate with many in the community. It will be interesting to see how his character evolves moving forward into the season.” This statement aligns very well with my argument, not only that but this is from the national Autism Speaks website, a very well respected website that is the voice for the Autistic community.
The narative of the show “The Good Doctor” is the journey of Autistic medical intern that is working to become a doctor. The show expresses the other struggles that Shaun has to face because of his Autism, the biggest problem being communication. Shaun had a difficult time even getting an internship at a hospital because of all of the judgment he faces, that was until they heard why he wanted to become a doctor. Shaun often has flashbacks to his traumatic childhood, but that is why Shaun wished to become a doctor, he saw his brother die right in front of him, and he couldn’t do anything to help. People hear Autism, and they instantly think the worst, they don’t give Shaun a chance because they don’t think someone who has Autism is capable of anything, let alone being a doctor. Throughout the seasons of the show Shaun never lets peoples opinions, or judgment keep him down, he always keeps going until he gets what he wants. The enigma of the show, or what makes people want to watch until the end is how Shaun is given an almost impossible medical task, and then solves it. Shaun illustrated the obstacle in his head by imagining the human body and thinking of ways he can fix it. Shaun does not feel emotions like the rest of us, he feels them differently and that is why he is so much more advanced when it comes to medicine because he has no bias or fear of judgment. He faces a lot of setbacks in the show, but he is slowly catching his dream of becoming a doctor.
When it comes to the production of the show, they have many main cast members with the star being Freddie Highmore (Shaun Murphy), Antonia Thomas (Claire Brown), Nicholas Gonzalez (Neil Melendez), Fiona Gubelmann (Morgan Reznick), Richard Schiff (Dr. Glassman), Christina Chang (Audrey Lim). Those are just a few of the main characters in the show. The show takes place mostly in the hospital with a few scenes at the characters houses and around the city. So most of the episodes are bottle episodes or they are inexpensive to make because they take place in one location. The show does have a lot of special effects though because the show is based on operating on patients, and patient care.
“It was the most watched program during the third week of the season, edging CBS’ The Big Bang Theory (17.9 million), “NCIS” (17.4 million) and NBC’s “This Is Us” (17.1 million) and “Sunday Night Football”(16.2 million).”https://deadline.com/2017/10/the-good-doctor-weekly-rankings-most-watched-program-ffirst-time-1202194643/
The show has sense gained a lot of viewers at the end of the latest season the show was at 13.41 million viewers.
When I began to analyze this show to find out whether or not the show was accurately representing Autism I asked myself some questions. What is the show doing to authenticate Freddie (Shaun) as Autistic? How does Shaun react when someone touches or hugs him? How do they show the way that Shaun thinks? What does someone knowledgeable about Autism think about the representation of Autism in this show?
For the first question, what is the show doing to authenticate Freddie (Shaun) as Autistic? Well, I found that the producers of the show along with the writers of the show researched Autism, and talked to a lot of professionals to try and make the show as authentic as they could.
How does Shaun react when someone touches or hugs him? Well, these scenarios happened very often in the episodes because Shaun often saved a lot of patients lives. When that happened, the families would be very grateful and excited, when they would rush to hug him he would seem to crawl out of his skin and sweat profusely. Shaun then would offer a fist bump; instead, this was his way of avoiding the most physical contact that he could.
How do they show the way that Shaun thinks? Well, when Shaun went deep into thought, they would show a visual on the screen in 3D of what was going through his mind. Or when he had flashbacks, they would play the flashbacks on the screen. For example, when he was asked why he wanted to become a doctor, they played the flashback that Shaun had of how his brother died right in front of him. Another example would be when Shaun was in surgery, and something went wrong with the patient’s heart they showed a 3D image of how Shaun imagined the Human heart and all the valves to figure out the problem.
What does someone knowledgeable about Autism think about the representation of Autism in this show? For this I found a great quote from the Autism Speaks page from someone that is on the Autism specktrum themsleves.
“The Good Doctor does a fine job of navigating this razor’s edge. Freddie does well in his debut, showing several characteristics that can accompany an autism diagnosis. These characteristics include things such as social awkwardness, lack of eye contact, playing with his hands during stressful situations, etc. That last one is still something I do to this day as an adult who is on the autism spectrum. Freddie’s take will resonate with many in the community. It will be interesting to see how his character evolves moving forward into the season.”https://www.autismspeaks.org/blog/my-review-good-doctor-adult-autism
All in all, this show does a great job of correctly showing Autism. I found many other reviews that agreed with the fact that the show accurately portrayed Autism. I looked at many different ways the show represents Shaun’s Autism, and I continued to find that they did it well. The show has strong actors, and actresses, that are a huge role in the growing success of the show. If the show keeps the creative and exciting narratives that it has so far, it could become as big as “Grays Anatomy” one day, and I hope that it does! The show is renewed for the third season, and as a major fan of the show, I will be awaiting the release of the new season!